People were already beginning to debate just how bad a year 2011 was (or was not) for Auburn. Unless someone is career-threateningly wrong, it could be about to get a lot worse.
That's from a writer for the Arkansas State Scout site, in case you were wondering. (Yes, they have one.) It's also been confirmed by a former Auburn player who now works for the Sun Belt Network. (Yes, they have one.) And Alabama mainstream outlets are also piling on. When something is coming from both sides, it's probably a done deal. This is about as confirmed as a pre-press conference hire gets in the Sun Belt.
Which raises all sorts of interesting questions, not the least of which being why Malzahn would have reportedly passed on jobs including Vanderbilt last year, then decided to go to a Sun Belt team this year. Vanderbilt might not be in the business of traveling to Atlanta every year, but it ain't Arkansas State.
As for Auburn, Malzahn's record was famously uneven during his time on the Plains. In 2009, the Tigers had the second-best total offense in the conference, a figure that moved to No. 1 last year before falling to tenth this year. This would, of course, be the first year after the loss of Cam Newton, and the corresponding drop in Auburn's offense has been traced back to that more than the notably young team Newton and others left behind.
Perhaps it also caused Malzahn's career prospects to take something of a dive. Whether that's fair or not, the coach that doesn't take the job while his resume is hot probably won't get quite as nice an offer if things head south.
As bad as this season might or might not have been for Auburn, it seems it was even worse for Malzahn.